Breaking: MSU gets Texas A&M transfer Howard

Teaira McCowan and Anriel Howard

Staff Writer

Mississippi State women’s basketball will have the two top rebounders in the Southeastern Conference playing side-by-side in 2018-19.

Going along with the SEC’s top rebounder from last season in MSU’s Teaira McCowan, Vic Schaefer got some major news on Thursday night with Texas A&M’s Anriel Howard announcing her intentions to transfer to Starkville.

Howard, a graduate transfer, is eligible immediately to play her final season for the Bulldogs.

Howard said that she chose MSU over South Carolina. She also took visits to Florida State and Connecticut. She is the third player to transfer to Mississippi State this season joining sophomores-to-be Andra Espinoza-Hunter from UConn and Promise Taylor from Ole Miss.

Over the course of the last few months, life has been coming fast for Howard. 

The Texas A&M junior standout finished her season with a bang when she scored 26 points and pulled down 14 rebounds against eventual national champions Notre Dame in the Sweet 16. A week later, and minutes before the national title game, news surfaced that she intended to transfer.

Howard was experiencing pressure from all over. A&M fans wanted her to return to College Station for a final season, she had visits set up to Florida State and Connecticut that mounted even more to that decision, then came that trip to Starkville for Super Bulldog Weekend. Anriel and mother Che weren’t sure what to expect, but they quickly found there was something about the place that put them at ease.

“As soon as I landed, I felt like it was the place,” Howard said of MSU. “In high school when I was recruited, I just felt like Texas A&M was the place for me on my visit. Usually when I go on a visit there’s something that I question, but I just never got that feeling and that was the first time ever.

“I know everyone always says their program is family-oriented but MSU has no comparisons. The fans are a part of the family, too. The whole community is there for you and that is awesome. I love that part of it.”

Of course, the coaching staff played a major part in the decision as well. Schaefer and Johnnie Harris were going up against Geno Auriemma at UConn, FSU’s Sue Semrau and South Carolina’s Dawn Staley. All three are tough to contend, but Schaefer and Harris bested them.

“The coaching staff is so genuine," Howard said. "They really care about the players individually. They were just very honest and real with me and so was South Carolina. Every aspect from off the court, on the court, teammates and housing, Mississippi State was just better for me. It’s hard to be perfect and I’m not going to say that Mississippi State is, but they’re pretty close.”

Howard knows plenty about MSU’s on-court product. The Atlanta native went 1-5 against the Bulldogs in her three years with the Aggies losing the last five games. This year, she played State twice scoring 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in a loss at Humphrey Coliseum and grabbing 17 rebounds in the SEC Tournament with just four points as MSU advanced to the championship game.

In those games, Howard often had a 6-7, All-American center in the form of McCowan to contend against. Now, the two will play together in the same front court.

It’s that reason why Howard felt content on choosing the Bulldogs. After breaking the A&M record with 1,004 career rebounds and finishing second behind McCowan in the SEC with 12 per game a year ago, she gets a chance to help MSU become one of the best post tandems in the country.

“I’m honored to be able to play next to her,” Howard said. “I think that together we can be more dominant than we ever have. I think that we will dominate the paint on any court we go to. I don’t think that anybody can prepare for us. I’ve played against T so I know how good she is in a game, but I hear she’s even better in a practice setting so I’m ready to get to work.”

McCowan and Howard pose a dominating rebounding force in the post and the Bulldogs added a top 15 class to help relinquish what they lost with the four seniors from the last two Final Four trips. 

With what is returning and what has been added, Howard doesn't see much drop off next season. She knows what State lost last year after playing against it first hand, but she is bound to make sure that they stay the course. 

“That’s something that I took into consideration in my decision, but I don’t think that we’re going to take a step back,” Howard said. “That concern was at South Carolina losing A’Ja Wilson. With Mississippi State, even though they lost four of their really good players, I still think that they’ll be really great because of Big T and the way that they play. The guards that are coming in are really great. Defense plays a big role in coach Schaefer’s program and all of those guards can lock down anybody. The incoming freshmen will be very beneficial to the program as well. I think that we will go back to how they were a couple of years ago with that style of play where defense creates offense.”